Bermuda Gas flourishes under Wade leadership
During his first year in the job as general manager of Bermuda Gas, Damon Wade has overseen some big changes.
The company endured the worst year in its history in 2008, but since Mr Wade has taken the reins it has bounced back to post a profit of $1.3 million in 2009 and is on track for an even better year in 2010 having reported a net income of $621,816 for the first six months of this year.
But there is no resting on his laurels for the former Belco manager who has now set his sights on following through with a five-year plan launched last year.
Mr Wade said that Bermuda Gas had benefited from the closure of Home Zone earlier this year, picking up a lot of new business in its appliance division, which combined with a successful educational campaign to teach Bermudians advantages of using propane gas and its annual Christmas Turkey Giveaway promotion had all helped to boost the company's bottom line.
Despite gas sales being flat due to the impact of the economic downturn resulting in more customers leaving the Island and the lack hotel and restaurant development activity or closures, the other parts of the business such as appliance sales, service and parts were strong, he said.
“We came out of 2008 having had the worst year ever for Bermuda Gas,” he said.
“I came on board in July 2009 and we had a strategic planning exercise that we put into effect and we have been extremely blessed as it relates to the economic conditions because as far as appliances as concerned if anything breaks down it doesn't matter if it is a recession or not, people replace those items or get them serviced.
“We have been fortunate that we are in a business that will continue to be required and there will continually be a demand for our services despite the economic conditions.
“As a result we had our best year in 2009 and 2010 is tracking better than 2009 despite the economic climate.”
Refrigeration and laundry appliances are Bermuda's Gas's biggest sellers, according to Mr Wade, driven mainly by residential sales, followed by cooking, water heaters and gas fire heaters, as well as air conditioners and barbecues.
The awareness campaigns the company has been running over the past year have also been hitting the spot and have so far exceeded his expectations and in addition to taking part in a number of home shows has helped to increase the recognition of its products and services.
Bermuda Gas was the presenting sponsor for the annual All-Star Weekend held at CedarBridge Academy and the Berkeley Institute in May, which featured some of the top US street basketball players under the banner of S.K.Y. Streetball Syndicate and several NBA legends, and proved to be a big hit as well as getting the company's name out in the community, said Mr Wade.
And through its newly-formed Corporate Contributions Committee, the company plans to donate money and appliances to a host of other worthy causes in the future.
During Mr Wade's brief tenure, Bermuda Gas has more than held its own or increased its market share in all lines of business, as borne out by its latest set of financial results, but it is the cultural change as a company which he is perhaps most proud of.
Having successfully concluded negotiations with the union over conditions of work for its employees in 2009, the company conducted an employee survey earlier this year in which 70 percent of those questioned believed that Bermuda Gas was better this year than the previous year and the same number said that the company was going in a better direction than in a year before.
“If you can't get employees engaged and signed up to what you want to do then you can forget about it,” said Mr Wade.
“There has been a deliberate focus on employees over the past year and to continue providing superior customer service - it is always going to be a work in progress this year more so than any other.”
As part of a restructuring process, certain staff have been moved to other parts of the business to focus on areas of growth and the company has taken advantage of efficiencies and cost savings in its rents, while continuing to enjoy the symbiotic relationship with sister companies Belco and PureNERGY Renewables.
Reflecting on his first 12 months in charge, Mr Wade said he is feeling fulfilled in his role and hopes to continue in that vein despite facing a number of tough economic challenges - culminating in Bermuda Gas becoming a one-stop shop for customer's energy needs.
“I love working with this group of people,” he said.
“I also love the fact that we are now seeing success, so we are doing well.”
In the past some customers have contacted him directly with their queries, but while he is always happy to talk to them, in the future he would rather a dedicated service manager addresses their needs in order for the business to operate more effectively.
“In terms of service we don't want to rest on our laurels, but to effect continuous improvement on response times and to be more proactive where communicating with our customers about status of jobs is concerned,” he said.
“We hope that by making changes that we have will positively impact people and we believe it has already and we want to continue to see that grow.”